From a traveler’s point of view, the city of Taipei is often described as a combination of Tokyo and Hong Kong. Dazzling city lights, appetizing street food, and energetic night markets fill the streets of Taipei every night and those are only part of the allure that Taiwan’s capital exudes. Like other Asian capitals, Taipei is a fusion of the ancient with the modern and as always, makes for a very fascinating destination. We speak with Pat, 28 a Filipino working as a Business Development Manager for the past 2 Years in Taipei about how best to appreciate this enchanting city.
Pat in The Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei also known as MoCA
What do you enjoy best in the country you're in? Any recommendations for travelers going to your new country?
Reliability- I can leave my place 30 minutes before my target ETA to the office, and I can rest assured that I will get there on time. Not only is it easy and convenient to go around, what’s best is that you can rely on the public systems to work for you.
Culture – A perfect marriage of the old and the new. It’s amazing to be immersed in the traditions and beliefs that this country has, but what’s even more amazing is how they are able to seamlessly work in new technologies while never losing sight of what is quintessentially Taiwanese.
Work- the way they do business and put value in the work is inspiring. The standards are set higher than usual, until that standard becomes average and you’re expected to outdo yourself. Best lesson is probably to always go back to your core. Go back to your why; don’t forget why you do what you do. Take pride in your work and stand by it.
Creativity – A chunk of the most creative people I’ve met, I probably met in Taiwan. You see it everywhere: architecture, food, clothes, and art. You can’t visit Taiwan and leave without feeling excited and pumped up with ideas you got from your trip. You can leave Taiwan, but Taiwan won’t ever leave you.
Inclusivity – there is a relatively good number of expats in Taiwan. You may get special treatment once in a while, which isn’t so bad. But what’s good is you won’t ever feel like you don’t belong. It is home.
People –Taiwanese people are probably the nicest and most welcoming people in the world. For someone who is still trying to learn the language, it’s uncanny how I never felt like it was such a challenge to communicate. I’ve always believed that travel in general was never about the place, but the people, and the Taiwanese are a great testament to that.
-When to Go-
Late October to Early March. Taiwan can get really chilly, borderline freezing. Going around these months will make your winter outfit dreams come to life.
When you land - tips upon touchdown
Unlike HK, there are hardly any moneychangers in Taipei. It’s best to have yours exchanged at the airport. Rate: NTD 1.5 = PHP 1.00
Avoid bill shock stress. Get a local sim or portable wifi. Available at the airport. Costs around PHP1,500
Airport to City Center
A train line is currently underway. For now, you can take a bus or a cab to Taipei City. Bus: NTD300 Taxi / Uber NTD 900 - 1000
Taipei is probably one of the most reliable train systems I’ve ever been on. So I’d say it’s still the best way to go around the city. If you want to explore further, you can also take a U-Bike or the bus. Get yourself a "Yoyoca” (MRT card in Mandarin) for ease of travel. You can also use this when paying for your U-Bike, bus ride and even at 7-11 and most of the other establishments. If you’re tired from all the walking, you can take Uber or taxi. Note: Uber is cheaper. Plus the flagdown for taxis increase past 11PM.
-Where to Go-
It’s a small country. You can travel on motorbike and see Taiwan in its entirety.
For the best view of 101 and the city. Note: prepare to hike.
Huashan 1914 Creative Park
For when you want to read a book and people-watch while having your coffee.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Changing of guards from 9AM-5PM, every hour.
Xingtian (for business)
Xia Hai (for love)
If you have a packed itinerary and only had time to visit one museum, let this be it.
Fujin Street and Zhongshan District
Hipster game on fleek.
Off the Beaten Tourist Path
Go on a tour of Kavalan Whisky's Distillery
Cinjing Farm, Sun Moon Lake
-Where to Shop-
Sneakerheads unite! Cheaper to buy from here than Manila.
Shida Night Market
Clothes are trendy and reasonably priced. Girls, prepare your wallets. Boyfriends, bring a portable stool.
A more affordable version of Uniqlo.
A good mix of local, indie brands with beautiful merchandising. P.S. Don’t forget to go to the bookstore.
For the quirky, unnecessary purchases.
-Where to Eat-
Taiwan is usually associated with street food and milk tea, but there’s so much good food in this country, it can be a bit overwhelming as evidenced below.
Dan bing (forever!)--Taiwan’s version of paper-thin crepe filled with a choice of tuna, smoked chicken, cheese or bacon.
Ice Cream Burrito
Found mostly in night markets, it’s pineapple, taro and red bean ice cream with shaved peanuts and cilantro served burrito style. Sounds weird, but really good!
Taipei has great food courts and definitely worth trying! (Usually located in the basement level.)
Every carb-loving soul’s dream, Taipei has an abundance of really delicious bread. Do yourself a favor and pause that carb-free diet. Personal pick: Hogan.
Yongkang Street and Maji Square
Warning: you would want to eat everything.
Bagels and cream cheese (MRT: Taipei 101)
Specializes in different kinds of grilled cheese paninis. Pastas and salads are good too! (MRT: Zhongxiao Dunhua)
No fails are Woollomooloo and The Diner. (MRT: Taipei 101)
Get the steamed cod.
Order the house special, fried silken tofu
Red Ant (teppanyaki)
Located in Tonghua Night Market
Addiction Aquatic Development
Taipei’s “Tsukiji” market, but chicer
ATT 4 FUN, 4th Floor
An entire floor of restaurants with Instagram-worthy interiors and food. Millenials, come prepared.
-Where to Hang-
There’s always a new place to check out, or a sight to see. But if you feel like chilling or having a drink, here are some places you can check out:
Smith and Hsu (scones and tea sampler)
Taipei is known for its tea, but it has really amazing coffee as well. Third-wave, independent coffee places are the norm in this city. My grab and go would be from Louisa, while a sit-down would be in Fika Fika Café, Woolloomooloo and Fujin Tree.
Drinks and Night Outs
For good beers.
For yummy cocktails.
Marquee and Barcode
If you like to lounge.
Omni and Club Myst
If you like to party.
Catch, grill and eat shrimps. Best watered down with Taiwan beer. Open till the wee hours, this is as legit as you can get.
If all else fails, go to 7-11. Buy your drinks and sit on a random street with your buddies like locals do.
-Gifts to Bring Home-
Chia Te Pineapple Cakes
2015 and 2016 winner of World Whisky Awards
-Taoyuan International Airport-
Taoyuan International Airport is actually a great jump off point to Europe, US and even South Africa. So you might want to consider having a Taiwan layover before your big trip—you get cheaper flights and get to visit one of the world’s most dynamic cities. You’re welcome!
-Unsolicited Advice (for those who want to go abroad)-
People who move have different reasons for moving. Most seek greener pastures, some want a change in environment and some even do it for love. Mine was a career move. More than that, I strongly felt like it was something that I needed to do for myself. So far, I’ve learned that the grass is only greener where you water it, that a change in environment will only mean something if you’re willing and open to have a change of state of mind and that you may not always find love, but what you will find is a stronger sense of who you are. Being away from home can be liberating and humbling; scary and exciting and if I had a do over, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I’d still say yes to every single opportunity and moment without regret.
Experience is still the best teacher, and the only way to find out what’s on the other side is by being there.
Photos submitted by contributor